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Trail-blazer heads to Beacon Hill

Wong will finish term on board

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / December 30, 2010

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He’s the chairman of the Saugus Board of Selectmen, the co-owner of a well-known business, and a veteran community volunteer. Now, Donald H. Wong is preparing for another visible role.

The 58-year-old Republican will be sworn in at the State House Wednesday as the new representative for the Ninth Essex district.

Wong earned the House seat in November when he outpaced five-term Democratic incumbent Mark Falzone of Saugus. The district includes most of Saugus, and parts of Lynn, Lynnfield, and Wakefield.

“I’m excited,’’ said Wong, who is co-owner of his family’s Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

But he said what enthused him was “not the office or the position that we will be taking. It’s what we can get done working together once we are up there at the State House.’’

Wong is undaunted by the challenge he will face in serving the dual roles of selectman and state legislator. He has decided to fill out the remaining 11 months of his selectman’s term and to continue as the board’s chairman.

“I have a good board that works with me,’’ he said, adding that the town’s department heads also collaborate well. He said that would help him devote time to his legislative duties.

“I am continuing as selectman because the people of the community voted me into this position and I never quit anything I start,’’ Wong said, adding that he has no plans to seek reelection to the board, but “I have not closed any doors.’’

His election as a state representative was a ground-breaking event in Massachusetts politics since Wong and Quincy Democrat Tackey Chan, who also won a House seat in November, are the first Asian-Americans elected to the state Legislature.

A third-generation Chinese-American, Wong prefers not to dwell on his trail-blazing status, observing, “I didn’t run as an Asian-American, I ran as a human being trying to do what is best for Massachusetts.’’

But Wong, who has served on two Asian-American commissions on Beacon Hill, said, “It’s nice to see that our government is diversified now. This country is made up of a mixture of all races and creeds.’’

Wong said an important issue for him is to toughen the laws against child abuse. And although he supports legal immigration, he wants the state to take a harder line in denying state services to undocumented immigrants.

Another focus for him will be promoting ways to stimulate the economy, including providing more tax incentives to attract and retain businesses, and tailoring them to apply to a more diversified mix of companies, said Wong, who with his wife, Jeannie, has three adult children and two grandchildren.